If I could sum up this stage in one words, it would surely be “ACTIVE”! Physically, socially, and communicatively active is what your little toddler will be between 19 and 24 months! Not only will they be walking by now, you can also expect them to run, jump, kick a ball, climb on a chair, walk up and down stairs, scribble in circles, and string large beads! Some of the important linguistic milestones are describe below.
Remember the acronym ACTIVE, to help you recall these!
A – Asking and answering questions. “What’s that” question will be something you get to hear approximately 1000 times a day as your child depends on you to label the world around him/her. He/she needs to attach words to pretty much everything, so be ready to name animals, bugs, objects, toys, foods… over. And over. And over again.
C – Categorizing. By age 2, your toddler should be able to name at least 5 body parts, many familiar objects, food items, some action words, colours, and refer to oneself by name (Johnny wants milk).
T – Telling stories. Toddlers begin to enjoy listening to stories, read books together, point to pictures in books when named. They are like little sponges waiting to soak up the infinite knowledge through means of language, which they now detect everywhere around them. Print awareness is yet another skill that you should be noticing, thanks to all the books that you have been reading together! Your book warm may begin to recognize a couple of letters that you pointed out on many occasions – like the “C” on their Cheerios box, and the “A” in the gAs station, as you drive past one.
I – Intonation. Intonation patterns resemble adult-like speech. As toddlers begin asking questions, they quickly learn to mark a question by modifying the stress, inflection and pitch patterns in their voice. For example, “you go” will sound differently based on whether a child is telling you to leave (declarative “you go”) or is asking whether you plan on leaving “you gO?”
V – Vocabulary. By age 2, toddlers continue to string words together, with more and more novel 2- and even 3-word combinations. Your child may be adding new words almost every day, including nouns (ball), verbs (go), adjectives (blue), and some early pronouns (up, down). While sources differ on how many words are considered ‘normal’ for a child to use at this stage, most agree that between 50-100 (and more) is typical by age 2. Wile you may understand almost anything he/she says, due to many speech errors, your little one will be ~25-50% intelligible to strangers. While your child might not be using many words expressively, his/her receptive vocabulary (i.e., understanding of words) should be much bigger, comprising of at least 300 words.
E – Expanding. This is a very major skill that you should be noticing at this stage. Toddlers should be busy not only combining the contents of the jars that they get their little hands on, but also 2-3 word phrases: nouns + verbs and nouns + adjectives. As cognitive skills are maturing, following 2-step commands is yet another milestone, as your toddler has sufficient attention and memory to retain more information for longer periods of time. For instance “give dad 2 blocks” – this involves remembering how many blocks are needs and who to give them to. A 1-step command would be “take a block.”
Try these games/activities in order to promote the development of ACTIVE skills at home:
Sorting toys – mix together 2-3 categories of toys (plastic fruits/vegetables, cars, balls, blocks, animals, bugs, dolls, etc.) and sort together, putting all the food items in one bin and animals in another. While you do this, make sure to ask and answer questions “what’s that” and label the items! In this seemingly simple activity, you are targeting so many different skills: sorting and categorizing, expanding receptive and expressive vocabulary, asking and answering questions, turn taking, speech!
Songs – “head and shoulders, knees and toes” (watch my video for a demonstration, and please do not judge me for my poor singing abilities)! Through this song, you will be expanding your little one’s knowledge of body parts as they touch their head, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose while singing along. You will be modeling changes in intonation and rhythm, expanding the length of phrases (word combinations) and as always, understanding of words and their use.
Print awareness – look for specific letters on cereal and juice boxes, book titles, print on your shirts and shoes, signs you drive past outside. Practice writing them on paper and chalkboard using various colours, and on sand and snow using fingers and sticks! Ask your kiddo to identify a letter from a choice of 2-3 and to name letters as you write them. Begin with one letter, and continue adding new ones every few days. Sing the ABC during this activity for an added fun factor!
2-step commands – this is one of my favourite games to help promote a child’s cognitive development, language, as well as memory and attention. You will need ~5 small plastic animals/bugs, and ~5 plastic Easter eggs (all can be purchased at a dollar store). Spread these in front of your child and ask to place a specific animal in a certain egg. For example “put the dog in the green egg; put the cow in the blue egg”. If your child struggles remembering the commands, repeat them several times and demonstrate! The activity is tougher than it looks as your child scans all the animals and eggs in search for your request, selects the appropriate items, and practices their fine motor skills by placing the toy in the egg and closing it. This activity can be modified to target various language and cognition goals, including following multiple-step commands, pronouns, categories, prepositions, vocabulary, turn taking, etc. I will demonstrate some of such variations in later blog posts and in my videos.